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General Assembly of the OAS: Member States Agree on Need to Take Regional Cooperation Measures to Improve Citizen Security in the Americas

  June 7, 2011

The member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS), meeting on the second and final day of the forty-first regular session of the OAS General Assembly, today stressed the need to take regional cooperation measures to improve citizen security in the Americas, including current and future proposals to confront violence and crime in all their manifestations: organized crime, trafficking in drugs and firearms, human trafficking, and violence against women and children.

At the third plenary session, held at the International Fair and Conference Center (CIFCO) in the Salvadoran capital, the foreign ministers and representatives of Chile, The Bahamas, Grenada, Costa Rica, Dominica, Mexico, Canada, Uruguay, Saint Lucia, Peru, Paraguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Brazil, Venezuela, and Belize pointed to measures their countries have adopted at the national and regional levels to combat threats to citizen security. And they renewed their commitments to OAS efforts to create more just, free, and secure societies.

The Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon —in a speech presented to the plenary by the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena— welcomed the choice of "Citizen Security in the Americas" as the theme of the Assembly session and reaffirmed his organization’s commitment to help fight the problem. “The call for a hemispheric plan of action, set forth in the Declaration of El Salvador, is a welcome step in that direction,” said the UN’s highest official.
Also at the third plenary session, the Government of the Republic of Honduras was welcomed back to the Organization, greetings were extended to the new president-elect of the Republic of Peru, and the normal electoral process that took place in that South American country was welcomed.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, Alfredo Moreno, pointed to initiatives his country’s government has promoted at the regional level, such as police training through the Chilean Government’s Training Program for Uniformed Foreign Police (CECIPU). The project, carried out by the Carabineros of Chile, has trained this year, to date, over a thousand foreign police officers in its classes, and will train 123 police officers of the Hemisphere in subjects directly related to citizen security. In addition, the Police Investigations Unit of Chile has been conducting regional training programs since 1977 at the School of Investigations, added the Chilean representative. “In the design and application of its public security policy, Chile has incorporated the values, standards, norms, and shared approaches established by the multilateral organizations and by the international conventions to which we are a party,” he said.


The Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas, Theodore Brent Symonette, pointed to certain threats to citizen security in his country. He noted the support his country has received and shared with the other countries of the region through multilateral organizations like the OAS. “While our Organization is made up of sovereign individual states, transnational crime and threats to security, by their very nature, make a cooperative approach necessary,” he said. “The Bahamas is seeking to confront crime at the national level; however, multilateral cooperation is an effective tool that complements national efforts to deal with and control these threats,” he added.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Grenada, Karl Hood, stressed the importance of collectively addressing the challenges associated with citizen insecurity on two fronts: the legislative and the social. “Our legal systems, domestic laws, and international legal instruments constitute an appropriate framework for fighting the crimes commonly perpetrated in the past,” he said. “However, we face new crime trends that call for innovative, unprecedented responses. We must strengthen our legal codes so that criminal acts hereto fore unknown in our cities and towns will be punished and the criminals brought to justice,” he said.

Costa Rica

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, René Castro Salazar, called for updating multilateral efforts to fight new threats to security in the Hemisphere and adapting present mechanisms to changing realities and new challenges. At the same time, he recognized the efforts countries in the region have already made through the OAS, like the Declaration on Security in the Americas of 2003, and pointed to the favorable climate, now that “all active members of the OAS are governed by the democratic system," for achieving meaningful progress in protecting the citizens of the Hemisphere and ensuring their well-being. “We are exposed to the same risks shared by many sister states of the Americas, risks that pose challenges to democratic institutions and to the development of our human inhabitants,” he said.


The Permanent Representative of Dominica to the OAS, Ambassador Hubert John Charles, presented a message from the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of his country, Roosevelt Skerrit, which said that citizen security in Dominica and the neighboring countries of the Caribbean depends significantly on their economic, social, and cultural development, and that the Government he heads has taken the necessary measures to improve the quality of education for young people and has sought collaboration and support from multilateral institutions, inter alia, to move toward these goals. “We support the focus of this forum on security so as to identify strategies for meeting the challenges of our citizens,” he said.


The Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Patricia Espinosa, said that organized crime “is now one of the largest challenges facing our region.” She said these are criminal mafias “that go far beyond drug trafficking; these organizations live on abduction, extortion, robbery, and human trafficking; they live on violence and on evil; they exploit and murder, throughout our region, entire at-risk groups such as migrants, women, and children.” She pointed to the Security Strategy of the Government of President Felipe Calderón, which, among other things, establishes the need to strengthen international cooperation, and recalled that “we need revamped, reliable justice and security institutions and we must strengthen international cooperation.”


The Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas & Consular Affairs) of Canada, Diane Ablonczy, said the government of her country “sees the Organization of American States as the principal multilateral organization in the Americas, a crucial meeting place for cooperation with hemispheric partners in support of effective multilateralism and the pursuit of common interests.” Therefore, she continued, and because security, for Canada, is a “priority area” at the OAS, the Government of Canada will provide five million dollars to support “the important work the OAS is doing to strengthen security in the Hemisphere,” including financial resources to support the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) and the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the OAS in developing, implementing, and evaluating a comprehensive plan of interventions to reduce transnational organized crime in Central America. “This significant contribution to the OAS is an indication of the strong faith Canada has in the Organization, particularly in the work of its bodies devoted to strengthening security in its member states.”


The Head of the Delegation of Uruguay, Ambassador Milton Romani Gerner, said that his government was committed to seeking solutions to the new and traditional problems that threaten the security of his country and the region, such as drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, and the factors that put people at greater risk, especially boys and girls. He said that his country had taken several steps in this regard, such as active participation in the Hemispheric Strategy and the Hemispheric Plan of Action 3011-2015 on the illicit drug problem. “We will continue to foster a democratic public debate on this subject, with broad participation of the whole civil society and relevant public stakeholders,” he said.

Saint Lucia

The Permanent Representative of Saint Lucia to the OAS, Ambassador Michael Louis, described some initiatives that his government had undertaken to improve citizen security, including an action plan for capacity-building in the police and promoting international and regional cooperation, and he reiterated his government’s commitment to OAS initiatives in this area. As an example, he mentioned that Saint Lucia will soon sign a Cooperation Agreement for Execution of the Project “Promoting Firearms Marking in Latin America and the Caribbean” and support for development of a Prevention Strategy for the Caribbean, an initiative launched by the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the OAS. “Saint Lucia is therefore taking this excellent occasion to pledge its commitment and unequivocal support for the work of the OAS and its various agencies for the elaboration of best practices and the sharing of lessons learned,” he said.


The Head of the Delegation of Peru, Ambassador Luzmila Zanabria, said that her government favored the preparation of a Hemispheric Action Plan on Citizen Security that would advance OAS security efforts in a comprehensive and integral manner. She said, “It will be important for this additional effort to target the issues of prevention and combat of crime, insecurity, and violence, seeking to strengthen coordination and cooperation mechanisms among the countries in order to increase the effectiveness of the fight against the various forms of transnational organized crime, especially illicit arms trafficking and trafficking in persons, avoiding duplication of inter-American efforts already underway in other forums such as the Meetings of Ministers of Public Security in the Americas (MISPA) and the Meeting of Ministers of Justice of the Americas (REMJA), and the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD).” She also referred to the elections that had just taken place in her country on June 5, which she said had been “a clean and faultless process that met all democratic standards, as declared by the international observers, especially the OAS Mission, for which we express our appreciation.”


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, Jorge Lara Castro, described the various measures of the inter-American system supported by his country to strengthen regional efforts in the area of security. For example, the Government of Paraguay had been one of the first to sign and implement the project “Promoting Firearms Marking in Latin America and the Caribbean” under the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA), and had participated actively in the initiatives launched by the OAS in the framework of the MISPA and REMJA, among others. “Regional cooperation is of fundamental importance in the framework of strengthened democracies that rely on major structural transformations in order for our countries to advance,” he said.

Antigua and Barbuda

The Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the OAS, Deborah-Mae Lovell, noted some of the initiatives that her government had taken to face the threats to citizen security, including expansion of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (DARE) and measures to encourage all communities to establish neighborhood watch programs. She appealed for action to address climate change, which impacts the region’s security, and to increase corporate social responsibility as a means of upgrading citizen security. “We urge more comprehensive discussions that include all relevant stakeholders in the inter-American system for the negotiation of an Inter-American Social Charter to promote social development in our Hemisphere,” she said.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, Maxine O. McClean, recalled the “peculiar characteristics” of the small island states that “make them especially vulnerable and susceptible to multidimensional and transnational risks and threats with political, economic, social, health, environmental, and geographic factors.” Among the challenges confronting her country’s population, the representative of Barbados mentioned protection of the maritime environment, gender issues and trafficking in persons, which mainly affects women and girls, stating that “there can be no citizen security without full gender equity.” “There must be a more effective management mechanism to assist small island states to face these threats to their security in a coordinated and cooperative manner,” she said.


The General Under-Secretary for Policy of Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vera Lúcia Barrouín Crivano, pledged her country’s commitment to bilateral, subregional, and regional cooperation on public security and noted her government’s guidelines “to consolidate and integrate effective and appropriate crime suppression and a strong social agenda targeting at-risk groups.” The Brazilian diplomat affirmed her government’s continuous support of the inter-American human rights system, the social charter, and the reaffirmation of the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.


The Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, said that his country “has established the underpinnings of a country with citizen security,” and that “we are working hard within the concept of social justice not to please the market, but to offer justice in general to attack poverty; in Venezuela today all Venezuelans have enough to eat, and those who were excluded before are now eating.” Referring to the book “1984” by the British author George Orwell, he said that Venezuela “is threatened today by Big Brother—we are supervised, watched, controlled, certified, criticized, or silenced at every opportunity, directly or indirectly, through allies.”


The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belize, Wilfred Elrington, said that his country “has been working closely with our international, regional, and local partners in an effort to eradicate national and transnational criminal activities that threaten the security of our populations.” For example, he said, the Government of Belize had commissioned studies to identify the main causes of criminal behavior by the juvenile population and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the security forces; had launched a number of social programs to meet the needs and strengthen the development of the most marginalized people in the country; and had sought to upgrade the various public service organs to make them more competent and efficient in the services they offer to the public. “Much of what our country is doing today is done with the cooperation, facilitation, and generous support of this distinguished institution, the Organization of American States,” he said.

A gallery of photos of the event will be available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-719/11